The recent news regarding the senseless murder of Arkansas agent Beverly Carter has real estate agents and brokers across the country not only stunned and saddened but also taking a serious look at what we can do within our industry to ensure our own personal safety. While this case has been extremely high profile, it is not an isolated incident. The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Dept. of Labor shows that there were 25 homicides of real estate related workers in 2013. That’s just the homicides. It doesn’t include robberies, sexual assaults, and other violent crimes.
The man arrested for Beverly Carter’s murder said “She was just a woman that worked alone — a rich broker” as to why he targeted her. While the real estate business is predominately female, with 57% women according to the National Association of REALTORS®, the men in our industry are often just as much at risk. The only difference in the risks male agents face versus female agents is their gender. (We also take exception to the “rich broker” part of his statement considering that the average median income of a real estate agent for 2013 was just $47,000, but in this case that’s beside the point.)
The fact is that by the very nature of our work our agents are often alone in homes with strangers and while our office safety procedure includes notifying the office where they will be and with whom, it is ultimately at the agent’s discretion to follow this. Ironically, Beverly Carter’s body was found on the last day of the NAR “REALTOR® Safety Month” when the National Association of REALTORS® as well as boards and offices across the country focus on agent safety. According to what we’ve seen in the new reports she had taken steps that many agents are trained to take. Her husband knew where she was and she had left her purse locked in her car to avoid robbery. Sadly in her case these steps were not enough.
In today’s world there is an expectation of immediacy. You can see homes for sale online 24-7 and when you find one you’d like to look at in person, you’d like to see it immediately. We get it. BloomTree is built on taking care of our clients, but please understand that our agents’ personal safety has to come first. When our agents ask for ID or ask that you meet them at the office first, why they may chose not to show a home alone or in the evening hours, or why they don’t hold an open house in a vacant home or a remote area, it is not because we don’t trust you or don’t want to serve our clients. It’s because our agents are our family and we need to be sure that they are safe.
We implore all of our fellow real estate agents and brokers regardless of which company you are with to please follow safety guidelines and procedures. Social media has been abuzz with conversations about everything from smart phone apps and simple security measures, to whether or not agents should carry firearms. Ultimately the choice of what methods to use is up to you as an individual but please follow your office protocols, trust your gut, do what you need to do, and be safe. No home sale is worth your life.
Sadly nothing that we do can bring Beverly Carter back. We can only hope that her tragic loss brings a heightened sense of the need of safety awareness in the real estate industry. Please watch out for each other and be careful out there!